Black Women's Writing Recovered
An Interview with Mary Helen Washington

Washington, Mary Helen
Date Written:  2016-01-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21312

Interview with Mary Helen Washington.



MHW: The question that The Other Blacklist tries to answer is this: How did Cold War politics shape Black cultural production? I began the book trying to answer that question with personal reminiscences about my childhood in Catholic grade school in the 1950s, because that was the beginning of my Cold War anti-communist education.

The Cold War version of integration meant the production of good Blacks, who would never call attention to white racism, never use such a term as "white supremacy" (as the Left did), would accept the fiction of a color-blind society, and never be tainted by association with militant civil rights activists who admired Paul Robeson or those activists who fought for Black labor rights. As we see in the files of the FBI, the government's spycraft agencies were at the forefront of a strategy to target such civil rights activists.

To see how these Cold War racial protocols surface in literature, I turned to Phylon, the leading journal of Black literature of the 1950s, and to a questionnaire published in their 1950 issue about the future of "Negro" writing. The replies of the 23 respondents who answered the questionnaire revealed just how radioactive race was in the 1950s.
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